IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques

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10/08/2020 - Covid-19

FONDO SUPERA COVID-19 selects a study led by the Hospital de Mar Medical Research Institute, the Hospital del Mar and the University of Girona/IDIBGI, also involving the University of Vic and IDIAPJGol

The project is one of 12 selected by the evaluation committee and will receive the second highest amount of money, 250,000 euros. The study, which involves the University of Girona, the University of Vic-Central-University of Catalonia and the Foundation for Higher Studies in Health Sciences, the Trueta and Santa Caterina hospitals and the University Institute for Primary Health Care Research (IDIAP-Jordi Gol), with the company Gen inCode and several healthcare centres in the United States also showing an interest, will analyse genetic predisposition to coronary risk as a prognostic element of severity in the event of contracting COVID-19.

The CARGENCORS study, or CARdiovascular GENetic risk score for Risk Stratification of patients positive for the SARS-CoV-2 (COvid19) virus, was selected by the FONDO SUPERA COVID-19 (Beat COVID-19 Fund) evaluation committee, organised by the association of Spanish Universities (CRUE), the CSIC, and Santander Bank. With a pot of 8.5 million euros, the fund will finance projects in various fields with the aim of minimising the impact of the current pandemic, focusing on three priority areas: applied research, projects with social impact and profitability, and strengthening the ICT capacity of the state university system.

The CARGENCORS project is one of the 12 selected and will receive the second highest financial allocation of 250,000 euros. It is led by researchers and doctors from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and Hospital del Mar, as well as from the University of Girona/IDIBGI, Trueta and Santa Caterina hospitals, the University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia and the IDIAP-Jordi Gol, which are members of different CIBERCV groups and ISCIII thematic research areas. Other interested parties are the company Gen inCode and several medical centres in the United States, Mount Sinai Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine University and Columbian Presbyterian Hospital, all three in New York, as well as the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Analysis of 3,000 patients

The study is based on the fact that coronaviruses affect the cardiovascular system and that several studies point to higher mortality levels in COVID-19 patients with prior cardiovascular risk factors. The research involves analysing the samples and clinical information from one and a half thousand patients admitted to Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, and one and a half thousand patients in Girona who had a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection, some of whom were treated at the University Hospital of Girona Dr. Josep Trueta and by the ICS Girona primary care centres without the need for hospital admission (IDIAPJGol Girona will be responsible for detecting and monitoring these cases).

The samples from these 3,000 patients will be processed at the Cardiovascular Genetics Centre of the University of Girona/Institute of Biomedical Research of Girona (IDIBGI), using genetic panels, specially designed by UdG/IDIBGI researchers, which will analyse the genetic variables associated with cardiovascular disease, risk of inflammation, and risk of thrombosis. The results obtained will be analysed by IMIM researchers.

Dr. Jaume Marrugat, head of the IMIM's REGICOR group, principal investigator of the study, and director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Programme in the CIBER Cardiovascular Diseases network (CIBERCV), stresses that the project will analyse whether genetic predisposition to coronary risk can be used as a prognostic element of severity in patients with COVID-19. To this end, the researchers "will analyse a set of 50 genetic variants related to inflammation, thrombosis and the expression of the ACE2 receptor pathway, which identify patients predisposed to a hyperinflammatory response during the infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus", he explains.

Dr. Marrugat is confident that "these findings should enable improved patient risk stratification and, at the same time, better identification of approximately 10% of the population at risk of developing the most severe forms of COVID-19". If this relationship is demonstrated, it would provide a useful tool for predicting which patients may have a worse prognosis. It would also help us develop protocols adapted to this reality and prioritise vaccination campaigns, when the vaccine is available, for the most vulnerable population groups.

The researchers are hopeful that the results of their work will be used to complement public health measures such as lockdown or quarantine, as well as to improve preventive care for patients at the highest risk of suffering complications in the event of a COVID-19 infection.

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